Nigeria: This House Will Fall


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Nigeria: This House Will Fall




Obi Nwakanma




culled from VANGUARD, November 05, 2006


The title of this reflection is not original. It is taken from a book of the title, This House Has Fallen by Karl Maier published in 2000, which examined Nigeria in the wake of the rule of Sani Abacha. As Nigerians now know, Sani Abacha was not the last of their nightmare. Here is the parable of Nigeria for the six young Igbo murdered by the police in Abuja: they will have no justice, even in their death. According to recent reports, the man who led the alleged extra-judicial murder, the DCP Danjuma Ibrahim was granted bail recently for health reasons and released from state custody. This is an affront to justice and to good counsel. In the first place, as my various expert informants have told me, the Nigerian legal system does not accommodate bails for cases of homicide. Indeed, even lesser offences involving less privileged citizens of this country which are bailable offences have often been subject to long police incarcerations.


Many who come from the wrong part of the Nigerian cartography suffer heinously from the administration of justice. For instance, the late Morris Ibekwe of the famous Okwelle Holdings died in prison in spite of the numerous calls both by his lawyers and the appeals made to the courts by his family to grant him bail, to enable him to obtain expert medical treatment for the condition from which he eventually died. The state brought its might to bear and rejected all the entreaties. And Morris Ibekwe’s offence was neither treason nor homicide. He was charged with fraud. Furthermore, the late Mr. Ibekwe was still serving as an elected member of the Nigerian House of Representatives, on whose committee on state security he functioned as chairman, and many attested that he discharged his duties with diligence.


I do not speak for the late Ibekwe, but if he could be refused bail for an offence of less grievous weight, and in the face of his failing health, the current bail granted DCP Danjuma Ibrahim amounts to a provocation. It is an affront to the sensibility of the family and friends of those young men and the young woman, and it is part of the continued insult on the Igbo, according at least to the Attorney Charles Chikezie, himself a trial lawyer in the state of New Jersey, and scribe of the World Igbo Congress, who have taken particular interest in this case, principally as a social and criminal justice issue. DCP Danjuma should be tried promptly and given his just deserts. But no, Nigeria is not a place to seek justice. It is in fact a homicidal state. Some would say, a genocidal state. DCP Danjuma and his pathology, sociologists would say, is only a symptom of a society that has imploded, and the examples of Nigeria’s self- directed seppuku are too numerous to outline here. But let us use the example of what is happening in Anambra State, where an insurgent group of legislators embarked upon what simply amounts to legislative witch-hunt of the governor, Mr. Peter Obi.


Led by the factional speaker of a riven house Mr Balonwu, a group of twelve legislators of the Anambra House of Assembly mostly operating in exile and nocturnally, announced the pre-emptive impeachment of the governor in Awka on Wednesday November 1 by 5.00 a.m. According to some sources close to these events, these men were driven into Awka under armed escort provided by the head of the Federal Mobile Police Unit in Awka, where they sat for three minutes, and announced the removal of the governor. Of course this act has since developed in other directions, but the implication is quite simply definitive: Nigeria is a deconstructed state, with neither law nor reason.


Accusing fingers routinely point to the president who has, it is alleged, a desire to assume wider oversight powers. Indeed, the action by these legislators have been linked to executive subterfuge, through pressures exerted by blackmail, and threat by certain operatives in Abuja to unleash the EFCC hound-dog on Balonwu and co, on the strength of alleged payoffs they collected from the Ngige regime, if they did not embark on their current course of action. These allegations ought to be investigated, but who would? The instruments of state power are in the absolute control of the realm, and President Obasanjo embodies that realm absolutely. This absolutism is fuelling street talks, and we have learnt over the years not to disregard Nigerian street talk, that this president is moving towards appropriating absolute state authority under the guise of assuming emergency powers. Nigerians should anticipate this, and make the task impossible for this president, and subvert this potential scenario.


In any case, President Obasanjo should be alerted on the mood of Nigerians. Any attempts to foist another illegitimate regime on Nigerians – either through electoral fraud or the imposition of a state of emergency - would provoke massive civil disobedience, which might snowball, into a vastly uncontrollable situation. Nigerians are merely consoled by the certainty of the end of Obasanjo’s term in May 2007, and rest their oars on this certainty. Any change of this possibility may occasion public revolt, because, although his paid clowns and sycophants may inundate him with contrary views, Nigerians have long been tired of Olusegun Obasanjo. The much-touted reforms of his government are death pills. Hunger ravages the land. Anger rules. Injustice, political violence, poverty, and corruption of a scale so vast that Nigerians only have their arms akimbo, mark the second coming to the public sphere of this president.


All that , it seems, from the unfolding drama may only be regarded as a test run. But Nigerians want an opportunity for a new beginning after Obasanjo; a new moment of rebirth, and if rebirth is not possible, a permanent redrawing of the boundaries of this federation in which nobody is happy, only few prosper by looting state resources, and in which incompetence is celebrated, and national medals awarded for thievery; in which the laws are ambiguous, never made to be obeyed, and even simple rules like airport safety rules are violated on the say-so of a “big man,” playing god, and of course, the Russian roulette.


In 1979, the then General Obasanjo, as military head of state, in one moment of unwarranted elation predicted that Nigeria would be a modern, prosperous industrialized nation within the end of that century. Chinua Achebe of course in sober calm reminded him, in his book The Trouble With Nigeria, that it was an impossible dream because Nigeria was even then a backward, corrupt and incompetent country. As events have proven Achebe was right. We are six years into the 21st century and Nigeria is not only more corrupt and poor, it is faced with the clearest possibility of disintegration since the civil war.


The effect is singular: this house will fall.



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